THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE EARTH
The C. G. Jung Society of St. Louis will soon release a book of the finest essays from the Society’s third writing contest, this one on the theme of “Honoring the Altar of the Earth.” The book will be available at the Jung in the Heartland Conference - “The Altar of the Earth” to be held at King’s House Retreat Center September 10-13, 2015.
When Kathryn Stinson, the editor of the book, invited me to write a blurb for the back cover, I offered this:
Jung’s view was that one could not be reconciled with one’s own deepest nature without becoming reconciled with Nature itself. These essays illustrate ways in which the authors, finely attuned to their own delicate and precious natures, are also finely attuned to our exquisitely-balanced Earth. Civilization requires sufficient numbers of such individuals to save itself, and in doing so, save our small home in the great cosmos.
This short statement leads to critical questions. What does it mean to become reconciled with one’s own deepest nature? How does one effect reconciliation? For people steeped in religion, the tenets and dogma of their tradition provide working answers. Others, for whom religious institutions no longer hold value or provide answers, may not bother to ask, or even to know, the questions. Yet reconciliation, though an old-fashioned notion, can be a pressing need that arises from one’s deepest nature and requires some kind of response.
Often an individual’s first response to vague feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction is a combination of denial and repression. He or she tries to soldier on, to pretend nothing is awry. In extreme cases the result of so much energy invested in defenses that do not work is extreme ennui or depression. What is behind such disturbing feelings is an inner force for fuller development that initially seems hostile because it is often foreign and upsetting to the status quo.
At the onset of this inner urge from one’s truest and deepest nature, an individual may have threatening and difficult dreams, even nightmares. Repressed unconscious contents presenting themselves and seeking reconciliation with waking consciousness appear as people breaking into one’s home, threatening animals, angry teachers, condemning or indifferent parental figures, or situations in which windows and doors cannot be kept shut. Another recurring motif is the lost wallet, purse, keys, car, baggage. Other common dreams feature dismemberment motifs and are accompanied by feelings of being torn apart by inner conflict.
These contents from the deep can also be life-giving and expanding. The dreams may show the dreamer finding new wings of his/her house, discovering hidden tunnels, entering fascinating caves or ancient temples, opening ancient texts, meeting wisdom figures.
One’s deepest nature (the “Self” in Jungian terms) seems to want to tear away parts of the individual’s self-identity yet at the same time preserve essential elements and add to them. It is as if the “sculptor” of one’s being molds delicate material to one’s armature structure while carving away at existing casting, all at the same time. To the individual experiencing this process, it is disconcerting, disturbing, and at times terrifying. There are also moments of joy, of numinous insight, of secret delight. Mostly, it is a set of experiences that can hardly be communicated to anyone, a secret one cannot disclose.
This is the painful and exhilarating process C. G. Jung calls “individuation,” a word that means “not divided.” It is the movement of the whole person toward reconciliation of consciousness with the unknown and with the seemingly unknowable backdrop of the unconscious. Jung’s lasting gift is a rough guide through this difficult but rewarding process which apparently ends only in death.
The value of immersing oneself in and tending to this long-term careful process of development is that one becomes an instrument for harmony, a sort of tuning fork of nature. If one feels horribly awry within one’s being, the first questions to answer are: Where might I be at odds with the Self, and what thoughts, attitudes, behaviors do I need to change? Almost miraculously, “fixing” oneself, i.e., reconciling oneself, brings harmony to an outer situation. Perhaps just as frequently, one determines to change one’s outer situation.
And that brings us back to my book blurb. Are we reaching a critical mass, a sufficient number of reconciled individuals to effect the change necessary to save our small home in the cosmos?
For information about the C. G. Jung Society of St. Louis, about the September 10-13, 2015, Jung in the Heartland Conference, and about the book of essays, Honoring the Altar of the Earth, visit cgjungstl.org or call (314) 533-6809. The Heartland Conference will feature an art show with the conference theme. The Society is hosting a reception at 7:00 pm Saturday, September 12, 2015, at the King’s House Retreat Center featuring the artists and authors presenting their prize-winning essays.
Rose F. Holt
August 11, 2015